Time is not likely to improve the narrative of Donald Trump’s presidency. But if history is fair to him, the enduring legacy of his tenure will be the incredibly rapid development of a vaccine to shield against COVID-19.
The president has received well-earned criticism for mishandling many aspects of the pandemic. His messaging was contradictory, his sense of urgency in mobilizing against the virus was inconsistent, and he politicized protective measures such as mask wearing and social distancing.
And yet at Trump’s direction, the United States has pulled off the medical equivalent of a moonshot in developing not just one COVID-19 vaccine, but perhaps several in less than a year.
Trump’s $18 billion Operation Warp Speed initiative joined health officials with military officers in a multi-level push to work with drug makers to come up with vaccines and get them into mass production even before the testing and approval process is complete.
It has relied on logistics and operations specialists from the military to coordinate a production and distribution plan that should get the first vaccine shots into the arms of Americans by the first of the year.
By spring, 600 million doses of various vaccines should be available, and millions of people will already have been vaccinated.
This is not the work of a president who “ignored the virus,” as Democrats claim.
Pfizer, the Michigan pharmaceutical company that is at the most advanced point in the process, did not take development money from Operation Warp Speed. But it did benefit from a streamlined testing and approval process that coordinated the work being done by various companies pursuing a vaccine.
Pfizer last week announced it is near completion of clinical trials that are showing a 90 percent effective rate for its two-shot inoculation — nearly double the standard required for Food and Drug Administration approval.
Moderna reported this week its vaccine is also almost ready, and claims a 94 percent effective rate. Several other companies are also reporting good progress.
This is a process that at its best typically takes two to three years. And yet these companies have got it done in nine months, and with top-quality results.
It speaks to the genius and determination of American industry. When faced with an existential crisis, the country’s private sector once again responded.
Drug companies, often scapegoated as profiteers, are investing billions of their own dollars in vaccine development. Obviously, the winners of this race stand to reap huge windfalls — and rightfully so. It’s proof again that capitalism works not only to enrich the capitalists, but also to improve the lives of everyone else.
It is also a tribute to President Trump. He bet heavily that America could develop a vaccine at breakneck speed and was proven right. Lives will be spared worldwide because of his faith.
Trump got this one right. The vaccines should be rolling out in large numbers just as he is leaving office. That will make managing the virus a lot easier for incoming President Joe Biden.
But it’s Trump to whom history should give the credit.
— THE DETROIT NEWS